The past few years have seen a rise in open discussions about mental health on the African continent.
In Ghana, Nana Akosua Serwaa Adu-Boateng is one of the individuals creating awareness about the emotional, psychological, and social well-being of people by sharing her personal experiences and creating content to help break the stigma about mental health.
“I had suffered for a very long time in silence, and in shame because of the stigma attached to mental health issues. But one of the things I learnt in therapy was that I needed to speak up as a part of creating boundaries and also to not be ashamed,” explains Adu-Boateng.
Mental health is one of the issues addressed in her debut book Love, NASAB.
The collection of poems also touches on self-care and love. It takes “readers on a reflective journey through the different feelings and emotions we are confronted with in our everyday lives,” per the blurb of the book.
A decade in the making, Adu-Boateng actively started working on the book in March 2020 – during the first lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Love, NASAB was self-published, and was launched virtually on Friday, March 19, 2021.
Adu-Boateng is also a trained pastor, singer and a poet. She has two degrees in Human Resources Management and Law, and a Master of Art in Religious Studies.
The former model talks to us about being a mental health advocate and her new book Love, NASAB.
Can you share why you decided to become a mental health Advocate?
I had suffered for a very long time in silence and in shame because of the stigma attached to mental health issues. But one of the things I learnt in therapy was that I needed to speak up as part of creating boundaries and also to not be ashamed. And I remember how liberating it was the very first time I openly shared my experience of being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. That was a freedom I knew I wanted to live in forever. I have also had people reach out to me to let me know how sharing my story has helped them come to terms with their own mental health struggles and seek help. This is actually what keeps me going in sharing my story- that someone will hear me and seek help. Enough of suffering in shame and in silence.
What’s your take on the people openly sharing their mental health struggles, which was a taboo years ago?
It’s liberating. Honestly, I see it and go like “yes!” it’s empowering to see people owning their stories and telling them on their own terms without shame or an apology.
If governments and private institutions can fund campaigns to educate countries and the world at large on malaria and other diseases, we as individuals can also champion the education of mental health instead of waiting on others to do it.
What would you say to anyone who is struggling with their mental health but has decided not to ask for help for personal reasons?
There is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s not your fault you have mental health issues and you are not alone. There’s a whole community out here to help you through this journey and all you have to do is ask for help. If silence hasn’t helped you all this while, what’s there to lose in asking for help? Please reach out for help. Talk to someone you trust to start with and then seek professional help.
Your new book ‘Love, NASAB’ touches on subjects including love and mental health, can you speak on the process putting it together?
I have always been a writer. Ever since I was a little girl I have always had journals where I’d just pour my heart into. Writing is therapeutic for me and it’s actually been a healing process too. So I write on everything that matters to me or everything that I experience. Some of these poems are over a decade old. I write whatever I am feeling. Sometimes I don’t even know what that feeling is until I’m done with the poem.
Every now and then I share my writings on social media and I get people really relating to it and encouraging me to share more of my writings. People like you have always been cheering me on to keep writing. During the lockdown I was bored and needed something new. So I woke up one day and said I’m going to put together poems I have written and see what I can do with it. And here we are today- a book.
How did you decide on the major themes to tackle for the book?
I never had themes in mind when I started writing. But when I decided to put the poems together for this book, I needed it to be organized. And so I decided to put “like poems” together. I read through to see which ones were similar in terms of the emotion they addressed. That is how these themes came about. But I think after that process, I have become more intentional about themes when writing. I still freestyle a lot though. But there are days I say to myself “I am going to write about this particular topic” and I go ahead and do that.
I still have poems I don’t know which theme they fall under. I try not to box myself. I write whatever comes to me. That’s usually how a poem starts for me.
What do you hope readers take away after reading your book?
That they never run away from any emotion or feeling no matter how painful or uncomfortable it is. That they allow themselves go through every emotion they are confronted with so that they can be through with it when they come out of it. A lot of people are walking around with things they haven’t healed properly from because they won’t allow themselves fully go through an emotion.
If you are in love, feel all of it. If your heart is broken, grieve the loss of that relationship. If you lose a loved one, mourn them, no matter how long it takes.
Emotions don’t make you weak and running away or avoiding them doesn’t make you strong either so Feel every emotion fully!
Anything else you want to add?
Everyone should please buy my book. (laughs)
But seriously, I just want to encourage everyone to join the campaign to de-stigmatize mental health. We have come a long way but there’s still a lot of work to be done. You don’t need to have mental health issues to join in the campaign. Educate yourself, educate others and always be kind to people because you never know what people are struggling with.
Purchase book HERE.
Words by Gameli Hamelo